Shall I tell you your greatest mistake, Reza?
You loved Iran more than you loved Iranians.
— Hassan, King of Morocco
The Shah left Iran piloting his own aircraft on January 16, 1979. His first destination was Egypt where he planned to stay a few weeks before heading for the United States where his sisters owned homes in New York and California. As he waited in Cairo for clearance to fly on to America, I wrote an analysis for my colleagues in Parliament of why after thirty-seven years of peace, rising prosperity and greatly increased international respect for Iran, the Shah had lost his throne and the U.K. and U.S. their strongest ally in the Middle East.
It was our pressure that led the Shah to overestimate the
Soviet threat and spend far too large a share of Iran’s
income on the sophisticated weapons of which we were the
main suppliers. It was the Pentagon’s demands that the
U.S. military in Iran should be immune to Iranian law that
lent credibility to the charge that he was a puppet on an
American string. Many of us condemned him for not mov-
ing fast enough to “liberalize” yet what did most to
undermine him were the reforms he pushed through that
struck at the base of the Moslem clergy’s power—women’s
rights and land reform.
Time and change have given me no reason to change that assessment but the Shah’s own personal failings are clearer to me now than